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Counsellors in the making

“THE fabric of society is changing and we see a lot of people facing difficulties in their daily, professional and social life,” says Assoc Prof Shamsul Haque, head of discipline ( psychology) of the Jeffrey Cheah School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Monash University Malaysia.

“We can see that the demand for psychological services is increasing, because as people face more difficulties, they are unable to cope and need professional help.”

Assoc Prof Shamsul also shares that society is acknowledging that a deeper understanding of human behaviour and basic cognitive processes is crucial in most aspects of work life and spans across the different industries.

The Master of Professional Counselling is offered at Monash University Malaysia. Areas of study include human growth and lifespan development; mental health issues surrounding grief, trauma and substance abuse; counselling children, adolescents, individuals and couples; cognitive behaviour therapy; group psychotherapy; career development counselling; and counselling research design, among others.

The course is broad- based with students taught to counsel in various areas such as organisational counselling, mental health and relationships.

“One unique feature of this course is that it also equips students to understand and conduct research in the field of counselling,” says Dr Tam Cai Lian, course coordinator of the master’s programme.

These skills may be used to pursue further academic research study and enable evidence- based counselling practices.

She adds that the course aims to be accredited by three different bodies – the Malaysian Board of Counsellors, the Australian Counselling Association and the Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia.

The various accreditations will open up opportunities for graduates to practise in Malaysia as well as Australia.

The course incorporates 504 hours of clinical placements in government agencies and private organisations, of which 192 hours would involve direct, face- to- face contact with clients.

Dr Tam says that the course is open to anyone with a bachelor’s degree in any field, whether they are recent graduates or working professionals seeking to know more about counselling.

“Students need to have a passion and desire to know more about human beings and the problems they face and be interested in helping themselves and the people around them,” she says.

With a degree in mathematics, Dr Tam chose to pursue counselling as a way to help the community and address the various mental illnesses and family problems she saw around her.

Students will benefit greatly from a diverse team of highly experienced and accredited academics and psychologists.

They will also have access to world- class laboratories and facilities.

These include group and individual counselling rooms equipped with two- way mirrors, observation side rooms and recording devices.

Assoc Prof Shamsul says that counsellors can promote mental health at both the organisational and the community level.

“In an organisation, they can help improve relationships between co- workers, contribute to crisis management, manage work stress and also play a major role in reducing job dissatisfaction and improving job performance,” he says.

“At the community level, counsellors can deal with relationship problems through marriage or couple counselling as well as help manage personal grief, trauma and other mental health issues. At schools, they can help modify students’ academic behaviour and address peer- relation problems.” For more information, visit www.monash.edu.my.